The Vital Nature of Hospice Volunteering
Volunteers provide support to patients and families through direct care, administrative duties, and special programs. They are an integral part of the hospice care team, filling roles that range from Veteran pinning ceremonies to playing music for patients. Hospice patients and their loved ones rely heavily on volunteers for additional support and comfort during the final stages of a patient’s life. However, their ability to do so at this time has been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When hugs and handshakes are not allowed and visits are restricted, AseraCare hospice volunteers from all over the country are finding creative ways to show they care not only for their patients and their families but also for our amazing staff.
How are patients impacted when Hospice visits are reduced?
Human interaction and togetherness are key elements of hospice care. They enhance quality of life when the end of a person’s journey is near and help to lighten the burden many face through such a challenging time. With the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting limits on volunteer visitations, barriers are being created limiting the closeness and intimacy that patients need most in their final weeks or days of life. Weighing safety against comfort presents challenges, and in some ways, considering comfort as secondary in importance is in direct contradiction to the mission of hospice.
Research shows that social isolation can have a negative impact on the mind and body. Some of the harmful effects of social isolation include depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and sleep deprivation, all of which can negatively impact quality of life and reduce a person’s ability to continue to make memories with family, find closure and feel comfortable as the end of life nears. Patients’ feelings of isolation are compounded when the friendly volunteers who they have grown to know and trust can no longer visit. In-person visits from family members, friends and even members of the professional hospice team might also be limited, especially for residents living in a facility with enhanced safety precautions.
Volunteer Opportunities During COVID-19
Technology can play key role in helping volunteers to remain engaged in meeting patients’ needs while ensuring that social distancing measures are followed. In addition to using technology, volunteers might establish pen pal relationships with patients and families or drop off personalized care packages and meaningful gifts. Families feel the love of community when someone takes the time to write a letter or send a gift, and patients experience a sense of belonging too.
In the wake of COVID-19, hospice volunteer work look different, but they must continue to evolve and grow. The value of visitors and volunteers truly cannot be overstated. Providing patients with love and support is vital when the end of life is near, and this is so much more difficult to do without the work of committed hospice volunteers.
Everyone has a talent to give or a gift to share. If you’re interested in touching the lives of others, consider becoming a hospice volunteer. You may volunteer to spend your time doing tuck-in calls with patients or help out in an administrative capacity. Some volunteers are also making hand-painted cards with personalized notes to let them know they are still cared for even from a distance. Despite the fact that they can’t physically interact with their patients, these volunteers remain dedicated to serving patients and their families.
Here are a few ways to volunteer right now:
Sew face mask covers and face shields
Provide meals or baked goods
Make memory pillows or other handmade crafts
Play music or sing virtually or at a distance
Pick up groceries or run other vital errands
Professional assistance like legal support
Provide support through tuck-in calls
Write letters to boost the spirits of patients